12 January 2008

Creating Customer Evangelists


I am not necessarily a proponent of bending and manipulating business methods to the mission of the Church, but I found some of this very interesting.

I came across this website on Creating Customer Evangelists. The premise is that the best way to grow a business is to create evangelists out of customers who will spread the word about your product and recruit new customers. I've been reading Rodney Stark's Cities of God and The Rise of Christianity. Stark makes the point that (see especially the The Rise of Christianity), the role of friends is important in the process of conversion to a religious group. We are wired by God to seek community, and interpersonal attachments are an important factor in bringing people into contact with the church. As they develop stronger attachments to the members of a group, the more likely they are to join the group.

The authors of the web site start with an obvious fact: we are evangelists. We tell others about a movie they should see, which computer to purchase, what restaurant to visit, which books to read, and so on. Our recommendations are sincere, and often passionate.

Perhaps we do not realize that we are evangelists, but look at our sphere of influence. It is made up of friends, family, colleagues and other communities in which we participate.

So, most of this is not a big stretch, it seems to reflect the reality of how we are wired.

Here are the basic ideas of Customer Evangelists.

  1. Customer plus-delta: Continuously gather customer feedback.
  2. Napsterize knowledge: Make it a point to share knowledge freely.
  3. Build the buzz: Expertly build word-of-mouth networks.
  4. Create community: Encourage communities of customers to meet and share.
  5. Make bite-size chunks: Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite.
  6. Create a cause: Focus on making the world, or your industry, better.

1. Customer Plus-Delta - Listen to our Customers

The lesson is that we need to listen to our customers, and this is a key component to creating customer evangelists. Many of the organizations that the authors profiled receive hundreds or over 1,000 emails a day from customers, filled with suggestions, complaints, and praise.

2. Napsterize Your Knowledge

A 19-year-old programmer and college dropout wrote a program in 1999 to help his roommate find and share MP3 music files, it allowed Web surfers to open their hard drives to other people and do the same. He named his program Napster, a nickname given to him years earlier. In 18 months the world of computing and knowledge sharing changed.

The concept is to share your knowledge, to communicate with your customers, which will help you to develop them as evangelists.

3. Build the Buzz

In the customer evangelism model, buzz is the pathway that helps shepherd new customers into your company's front-row pews.

Each wave of buzz provides your evangelists with another reason to extol you. Buzz helps people discover your business faster than traditional marketing programs. It helps you to develop relationships because prospects already have some knowledge of your product.

In some cases, buzz sells the product by itself.

4. Create Community

Encourage your customer evangelists to meet one another and build relationships. the approach to community that it should be an experience -- a happy and memorable one, not a frightening and forgettable one.

5. Bite-Size Chunks

How do you eat a cow? One bite at a time. It's how companies recruit new customer evangelists, too. Instead of selling customers on the whole kit of products, entice them first with a steak dinner. If they love the steak, they'll be back for the rump roast and later, the whole side of beef.

Break your product and service portfolio into bite-size chunks. They are small, easily consumed pieces of what makes your company valuable.

6. Create a Cause

Apple Computer borrowed religion-based evangelism and took it to work.

Apple Computer's secular evangelism launched a new computer that suffered from insufficient software, a lack of storage capacity, a small screen and a price point higher than its competition.

Yet the Mac could compete with lower-priced, richer-featured models made by IBM because Apple was selling a dream, not a computer. Apple sold the Macintosh dream, which was to improve everyone's productivity and creativity. It created an evangelism department and hired marketers to evangelize, evangelize, evangelize.

This is just an overview. I want to address these concepts in forthcoming posts, but I think some of the concepts are obvious.

At the least, it makes one think about "how do we do church."

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